In the Toolkit --


  • Guide to the Toolkit
  • Leagues in Action
  • I. Choosing a Role for Your League

    II. Grassroots Action Priorities

  • Climate Action
  • Price on Carbon
  • Our Children's Trust
  • Energy Efficient Buildings
  • Renewable Energy
  • Adapting to Climate Change
  • III. Basics of Climate Change

    IV. Engaging Individuals

  • Communicating About Climate Change
  • Preparing for a Meeting on Climate Change
  • Engaging Groups in Your Community
  • V. Promoting Public Policy

  • Community Action Models
  • Organizing For Community Action
  • Tips for Building Grassroots Support
  • League Action on Climate Change
  • International Action
  • VI. Resources


    A variety of policies and incentives can be used to promote the development of renewable energy. Many of these are adopted at the state level and are mandatory throughout the state. Other policies are authorized by the state but implemented by local jurisdictions, if they so choose. Still other policies and practices are purely voluntary and available to all.

    Policies Mandated at the State Level

    A Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is a powerful tool for stimulating investment in new renewable energy. It requires electric utilities to supply a specified minimum percentage of their retail electric sales with electricity from eligible renewable sources, with the percentage increasing in a predictable way over time. Some states include a "carve-out," specifying that a certain percentage of the portfolio come from a particular source, e.g., solar PV. As of September 2014, 29 states and the District of Columbia had an RPS, and another nine states have voluntary RPS goals. These programs vary widely, with standards ranging from modest to aggressive, and differ in terms of the sources that qualify as "renewable energy." A map from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions highlights the states that have established standards and provides details for each.

    Net Metering programs encourage consumers to install renewable energy systems on-site by giving them credit for the electricity their system adds to the grid. Under net metering, when the renewable energy system produces more electricity than the customer needs, the excess electricity flows into the utility grid. When the demand for electricity is greater than the renewable system can provide, the customer draws electricity from the grid. At the end of the billing period, the customer is charged only for the "net" energy (kWh) consumed. Net metering is required by law in most states, but the policies differ widely. A map from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions highlights the states that have established standards and provides details for each.

    Public Benefit Funds are state programs dedicated to supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy resources. Many of these funds were developed through the electric utility restructuring process as a means to assure continued support for these programs. Such funds are supported through a small charge on customers' electric bills or from specified contributions from the utilities. A map from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions highlights the states that have established such funds and provides details for each.

    Policies Authorized at the State Level

    Real-Time Pricing and Smart Meters help consumers reduce their electric bills and help utilities better manage the grid. Ordinarily, consumers pay a fixed price per kilowatt-hour of electricity, no matter what time of day or night they use it. With real-time pricing, the rate the consumer pays varies from hour to hour according to the actual price of electricity at the time the power is used. Smart meters keep track of when the energy is used and send that information to the company electronically. Energy costs more on steamy summer afternoons, and consumers can save money by changing their usage habits -- for example, by cooling their homes in the morning and turning off their air conditioning in the afternoon. With smart meters and real-time pricing, the electrical energy produced by home solar PV systems will earn more money because most of it is generated during hours of peak demand.

    Community Choice Aggregation is a state policy that allows local governments to bundle (aggregate) the electric accounts of their residents and businesses and seek an alternative energy supplier while maintaining the existing electricity provider for transmission and distribution services. Buying "in bulk" enables the community to obtain electricity at lower prices -- and to choose a supplier who will provide renewable energy.

    Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing allows property owners to borrow money to pay for the up-front-costs of renewable energy and/or energy efficiency improvements. The amount borrowed is repaid over a period of years via a special assessment on the owner's property taxes or other locally-collected bill, such as a utility bill. In most cases, local governments that choose to offer PACE financing must be authorized by the state to do so.

    Feed-in Tariff (FIT) policies guarantee that anyone who generates electricity from a renewable energy source can sell that electricity to the grid and receive payment at a special fixed rate, typically higher than the regular grid power price. FIT has been very successful at encouraging installation of solar PV and wind in Europe but is only now starting to gain attention in this country. Six states now mandate FITs or similar programs, and some states have voluntary FITs.

    Voluntary Policies and Incentives

    Several green power programs give customers (individuals, government entities, businesses, school districts, and others) an opportunity to support the expansion of renewable energy resources.

    Green pricing is an optional utility service for customers who want to support a greater level of investment in renewable energy technologies. Customers pay a premium on their electric bill to cover the extra cost to the utility of acquiring renewable energy resources.  

    With green power marketing, customers have the option of choosing an alternative electricity supplier that provides electricity from renewable sources. The company certifies that enough renewable energy is fed into the grid to match the green energy purchased by its customers. To satisfy this commitment, they may buy electricity from renewable sources or may purchase Renewable Energy Credits (RECs). A REC represents one megawatt hour of renewable electricity generated and delivered to the power grid.

    Customers may also support renewable energy development by purchasing RECs directly.

    Rebate programs encourage the installation of renewable energy systems, primarily solar water heating and PV systems, as well as energy efficiency projects.

    Permitting standards can be simplified and the process expedited for the installation of wind and solar energy systems.


    Back to Introduction to Renewable Energy

    Last updated: 1/15/2015